K-8 Books to Spark a Lifelong Passion for CS Learning

06 Dec 2022 5 min read
Sarah Phelps
Sarah Phelps
Program Manager, Computer Science and STEM, Learning Technology Center
Sam Fishel
Sam Fishel
Digital Content Specialist, Learning Technology Center

Computer Science Education Week 2022 is here! This annual call to action is a chance for all educators to inspire CS learning, advocate for equity in CS education, and celebrate CS innovators like Grace Hopper, the computing pioneer whose birthday (December 9) is marked each year during CS Ed Week.

CS Ed Week is also an excellent opportunity to spark a lifelong interest in computer science learning, especially among elementary and middle school students. One way to do that doesn’t require students to pick up a laptop; instead, they can pick up a book and begin learning about CS concepts while building their literacy skills.

Here are a few of my favorite books for helping K-8 students discover their love for CS learning:

Computer Science Books for Young & Middle-Level Readers

Regardless of reading level, there’s a book out there that can help spark your student’s interest in and passion for computer science. These are a few I recommend to K-8 teachers who want to encourage independent reading or level up their daily reading time:

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code 

Laurie Wallmark | Grade K-3

What better way to celebrate CS Ed Week than by reading a book about the ground-breaking woman who inspired this annual celebration!

This beautifully-illustrated picture book for K-3 readers offers a peek into Grace Hopper’s remarkable life, from her childhood tinkering with clocks to her long career as a software engineer in the US Navy – including her work on one of the first modern computers, the Mark I. 

The author has also created a curriculum guide and discussion guide for this book, making it a perfect focal point for a unit or one-off lesson on the history of computer science.

How to Code a Sandcastle

Josh Funk | Grade K-3

Written in partnership with the nonprofit Girls Who Code, this lively and brightly-illustrated picture book introduces young readers to computer science concepts through Pearl and her robot friend Pascal.

In particular, this book’s relatable situations effectively illustrate coding fundamentals like sequences and loops while also celebrating problem-solving and the power of breaking down challenges into smaller, more manageable steps.

Coding to Kindness

Valerie Sousa & Jen Leban | Grade K-3

Welding together coding and social-emotional learning, this picture book is a perfect read for demonstrating how students can overcome personal differences as they learn and grow.

Students don’t just have to sit and listen to this book, either, because it features interactive segments that get young minds thinking about basic computational skills.Our own Jen Leban contributed her creativity and illustrations to this book, too, and even featured herself reading it aloud on her YouTube channel.

Girls Who Code Series

Various Authors | Grade 3-6

Perfect for fans of the timeless Baby-Sitters Club series, all four books in this chapter book series focus on a group of girls and the ways they use their coding skills (and friendship) to overcome their challenges.

Each book also offers spot-on inspiration for how students can put their new-found coding skills into practice, including to start a coding club, run a hackathon, or coordinate lights and music for a school dance.

Emmy in the Key of Code

Aimee Lucido | Grade 5-8

Coding and music take center stage in this unique middle school novel that follows 12-year old Emmy as she adjusts to a new school and a new city. Her outlook brightens when she makes her first friend in coding club, where they bond over their shared passion for music.

Through its characters and its central conflict, this book shows how coding and CS learning can crossover with other subject areas. In turn, this book is perfect for students who already have a love for the humanities and want to grow their interest in scientific pursuits.

Celebrating CS Learning Year-Round

Here at the Learning Technology Center, we’re always looking for new ways to get students of all ages interested in computer science learning. We’ve collected some of our favorites in our CS resource database, offering educators of all experience levels an easy path toward teaching a single CS lesson or a whole CS curriculum.

If you’re a current or aspiring CS educator, you can also connect with your peers and other curriculum leaders during our monthly CS and STEM networking group. These virtual gatherings – as well as our online Community group – are a great way to grow your PLN and discover innovative CS teaching resources for your classroom.

Sarah Phelps
Sarah Phelps
Program Manager, Computer Science and STEM, Learning Technology Center

Sarah leads computer science and STEM initiatives, manages partnerships with state and national organizations, and elevates the LTC’s role as a thought leader in the K-12 computer science space.

Sam Fishel
Sam Fishel
Digital Content Specialist, Learning Technology Center

Sam supports the execution and growth of LTC services through the development and creation of innovative, impactful, and timely digital content.